THE AFL Players Association has laughed off talk of a player strike during this year's collective bargaining negotiations, but that will not stop the union from having plans in place if talks break down.
It has been reported that at least two clubs have formalised a risk management strategy for the remote prospect of a strike, with the League expected to resist the players' request for a set percentage of annual revenue.
AFLPA CEO Paul Marsh said it was premature to even discuss a strike before negotiations start on the eve of the season, and he hadn't sensed any angst when recently meeting clubs.
However, he said the players could make preparations for a lockout, which has become common when negotiating collective bargaining agreements in US sport.
"The clubs are looking at this from a risk management perspective and on the other side of it we could also be looking, as part of our risk management, at players preparing to be locked out," Marsh told SEN.
"Just because you plan for something doesn't mean it's going to happen.
"We haven't even started negotiations yet, so I think a strike is probably a bit far-fetched right at the minute.
The NBA and NFL each had a lockout imposed by club owners in 2011 when consensus could not be reached on their respective collective bargaining agreements.
During the lockouts players could not access facilities, trainers or staff, and all forms of player movement and re-contracting were paused.
Marsh will lead the AFLPA's negotiations for a "significant increase in player payments" as a result of the League's six-year, $2.5 billion broadcast rights agreement, which will run from 2017 to 2022.
He stressed that the players would be open-minded and responsible through the negotiations, which are yet to kick off as the AFL finalises its financial modelling forecasts.
"The clubs need to continue to be financially strong and we understand the AFL has a priority around what it puts back into the community," Marsh said.
"This is a significant broadcast rights deal and it is on the back of the hard work of the players.
"At the end of the day the players are the guys putting on the show, they are the product, they're the labour.
"I'm sure there will be some road bumps along the way, but I'd also like to think at the end of it we'll get to a point where we've got a good deal in place that everyone's happy with."
Meanwhile, the AFLPA has started recruiting female footballers as members, with more than 150 players joining in the past two weeks.
Marsh said the AFLPA needed to negotiate additional funding with the AFL to make sure its full range of services could be provided to players in the inaugural women's league.
"We think this is an extremely important growth area for the game in general and we want to represent the female players," he said.